Rock Talk

6 Letters That Can Save Your Young Driver’s Life

Last updated on October 16, 2019 at 01:14 pm

The state says that your 16 year old is physically ready to drive – but are they mentally ready? The statistics say no!

There are approximately 13 million drivers in the U.S. that are 15-20 years old. That’s about 6.5% of the total number of drivers, which is over 200 million.

This 6.5% accounts for an average of 800,000 crashes per year (13% of the 6 million crashes by drivers of all ages).

These statistics are unacceptable. As a parent, I find them frightening. Why does this continue to happen? The answer is amazingly simple.

Current driver training teaches new drivers how to physically operate a vehicle, and how to pass a driving test, but not how to be safe drivers.

From the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), to the National Safety Council, it is universally agreed that 90% of all crashes are caused by mental error. Despite this, new drivers are still being taught how to parallel park, but not how to change lanes properly.

There are six core areas or “six keys to safe driving” that are the root causes of most crashes. The initials for these six keys are S.S.S.A.D.T.

Current training may touch on one or two of these, but as parents, it is our responsibility to teach young drivers to internalize and master all six. Do this, and you will greatly reduce their chances of having a collision.

The six keys to:

Speed Management
Excessive speed is the number one cause of crashes and fatalities – period.

Space Management

Tailgating leaves no room to react to the unexpected. Despite what you may have been taught, the correct way to manage your space is by measuring time, not car lengths. Car lengths do not account for relative speed. The proper following distance is 2-3 seconds on dry pavement and 4-6 seconds when the road is wet or icy.

Scanning of Mirrors

This is one of the most overlooked aspects of driving. Every 4-8 seconds you should scan you mirrors in this order: driver side, rearview, passenger side.

Attitude Behind the Wheel

As I mentioned earlier, this is the key to driving defensively. All you can control is your own vehicle and your own behavior, so it’s a vital safe driving habit to check your attitude at the (car) door! A newly released study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that drivers increase their crash risk level by tenfold when they get behind the wheel in an angry, sad or emotional state.

Danger Zone Recognition

Check your speed, check your space, scan your mirrors, and then scan the road 100 yards ahead for possible hazards.

The Other Driver
“Watch out for the other guy.” Words to live by – literally! I train drivers of all ages to be relaxed, confident and assertive (NOT aggressive) behind the wheel. Along with that, you must be vigilant and ready for anything. A good habit to develop is to “anticipate stupidity.” This helps to keep you calm (when the inevitable happens, it just meets your expectations) and focused when you drive.

Finally, teach your young driver to avoid crashes regardless of who is at fault. It doesn’t matter who was right if everybody gets hurt.

Stay Safe Out There!

(Coming in April – Distracted Driving is a rapidly growing epidemic on our roadways. Don’t Miss our next article – “Multitasking Means You Are Doing Two Things – Badly!”)

Plymouth Rock Assurance in New Jersey is proud to feature blog posts by Bob Ragazzo, a certified Defensive Driving Instructor, founder of Save Your Teen Driver LLC, as well as an Adult Driver Training company, Collision Avoidance Technology & Training LLC, and a nonprofit educational resource for parents and teens: The Parents’ Coalition to Stop Teen Driving Deaths NOW! Most importantly, he is the father of two young drivers, Nick and Patrick. Bob trains thousands of drivers each year, both experienced and inexperienced. He has authored dozens of articles on driver training and several eBooks, including: “7 Things That Every Parent Must Teach Their Young Driver.” He has been featured on Network News shows from Florida to California, and is a regular guest Driving Expert on radio stations all over the U.S. and Canada.

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